Mexican security officials are warning parents about a new danger in online gaming: Cartel kidnappings and recruitment. The warnings come after three abducted minors were rescued from a cartel safe house earlier this month after being recruited to the cartel while playing the free online BR title Free Fire published by Garena.
The government put out a press briefing on Wednesday addressing the situation, headed by Mexican security official Ricardo Mejia Berdeja.
In that briefing, they revealed that earlier in 2021 a cartel recruiter established a connection with one of the minors in the online game. After months of building trust with that minor, the recruiter offered that minor and two of their friends 16,000 pesos a month to inform the cartel on police whereabouts.
The minors were ultimately abducted 1,300 KM via bus, after meeting with a cartel-affiliated female identified as "Miran N" who paid for the transportation from Oaxaca to Monterrey. They were rescued from the cartel safe house earlier in October after they logged onto Free Fire, revealing their location to law enforcement. Mexican officials also arrested Meriam during the raid.
According to Berdeja, it isn't just Free Fire being used by cartels to recruit young people into the criminal underworld, other popular online games could also potentially be used as recruitment tools. He also indicated that it isn't just one cartel using this strategy, but instead, multiple cartels are turning to video games for recruitment.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.